Suns win NBA draft lot­tery, picks No. 1 next month

Sun.Star Baguio - - PRIMESPORTS -

CHICAGO — Phoenix gen­eral man­ager Ryan Mc­Donough was on stage mo­ments af­ter the NBA draft lot­tery ended, talk­ing about the fu­ture of the Suns and men­tion­ing how they had the best odds of pick­ing No. 1 over­all.

And then he stopped to cor­rect him­self.

“We have No. 1,” Mc­Donough said. “I’ve got to ad­just to that.”

It’s an ad­just­ment that he and the Suns will hap­pily be mak­ing.

The worst team in the league this sea­son will pick first in the NBA draft on June 21, af­ter the Suns won the draft lot­tery on Tues­day night. It’s the first time the Suns will have the chance to make the first over­all se­lec­tion.

“It’s great for our fran­chise,” said Mc­Donough, whose club went 21-61 this sea­son and missed the play­offs for an eighth con­sec­u­tive year. “It’s some­thing that you say com­ing into it, you don’t have any con­trol over it so you’re not go­ing to get ner­vous. And I was here dy­ing. I could barely breathe. I needed an oxy­gen tank.”

The Suns have three great can­di­dates for No. 1, all with ties to ei­ther Ari­zona or new Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov. Ari­zona fresh­man cen­ter De­an­dre Ay­ton is widely ex­pected to be a strong can­di­date to go No. 1 over­all, and he was at the lot­tery to watch the Suns win the pick. So was Duke’s Marvin Ba­gley III, an Ari­zona na­tive.

And Kokoskov is par­tic­u­larly fa­mil­iar with Slove­nia’s Luka Don­cic, who will be com­ing to the NBA from Real Madrid. Kokoskov coached Slove­nia — and Don­cic — to the gold medal at the Euro­pean cham­pi­onships last sum­mer.

The Suns were big win­ners.

So were Sacra­mento and At­lanta.

Sacra­mento will pick No. 2 and At­lanta got the No. 3 pick — both of them mov­ing up and buck­ing some odds to get there. The top three spots were de­ter­mined by the lot­tery, and then spots 414 fell in line of re­verse or­der of record.

Sacra­mento had a 18.3 per­cent chance en­ter­ing the lot­tery of mov­ing into the top three, while At­lanta’s move-up was re­ally just a slightly big­ger up­set than a coin-flip — the Hawks came into the night with a 42.3 per­cent chance of get­ting picks 1, 2 or 3.

The Hawks, like the Suns, got their lot­tery re­sult one day af­ter in­tro­duc­ing a new coach. Lloyd Pierce is tak­ing over in At­lanta, with a rep­u­ta­tion of help­ing great young tal­ent de­velop — he’s worked with Joel Em­biid, Stephen Curry, Klay Thomp­son and LeBron James, among many oth­ers.

The rest of the slots, in or­der, went to No. 4 Mem­phis, No. 5 Dal­las, No. 6 Or­lando, No. 7 Chicago, No. 8 Cleve­land, No. 9 New York, No. 10 Philadel­phia, No. 11 Char­lotte, No. 12 and No. 13 Los An­ge­les Clip­pers, and No. 14 Den­ver.

The draft is June 21 at Bar­clays Cen­ter in Brook­lyn.

The lot­tery has been around since 1985, was tweaked to a weighted sys­tem in 1990 and will be chang­ing again next year in an ef­fort to dis­cour­age teams from tank­ing.

Go­ing for­ward, the three teams with the worst reg­u­lar-sea­son records will all have 14 per­cent chances of win­ning the No. 1 pick, the fourth-worst team will have a 12.5 per­cent chance and the fifth-worst 10.5 per­cent. So there will still be a ben­e­fit to be­ing bad, but the odds will be so sim­i­lar among the bot­tom five teams — a 3.5 per­cent dif­fer­en­tial in the race for No. 1, in­stead of the 16.2 per­cent gap like this year — that the re­ward for los­ing might be less­ened.

Josh Jack­son, who just com­pleted his rookie sea­son with Phoenix, rep­re­sented the Suns on the stage, for the pub­lic an­nounce­ment of what was drawn in se­cret about an hour ear­lier. Only a hand­ful of team rep­re­sen­ta­tives, NBA of­fi­cials and me­dia knew the out­come of the lot­tery be­fore it was re­vealed pub­licly and they were all se­questered un­til the re­sults were aired.

Jack­son said he thinks the Suns need a big man. That means his vote, for now any­way, is Ay­ton.

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